Instant Runoff Voting/Ranked Choice Voting

Ranked Choice Voting CAR

Upholding the principle of majority rule and accommodating genuine voter choice are marks of a well-functioning democracy. That's why we encourage understanding, adoption and effective implementation of ranked choice voting.

When electing one candidate, ranked choice voting is commonly called instant runoff voting (IRV). IRV is used in a growing number of elections in the United States and around the world.

When voters are electing more than one candidate in a single district with ranked choice voting, it's call fair representation voting, which is an American, candidate-based form of proportional representation. This system allows like-minded voters to elect candidates in proportion to their share of the vote. Other names for these voting methods include preferential voting and the single transferable vote.





Instant runoff voting (known locally as ranked choice voting) is currently used in several cities in the San Francisco Bay Area. San Francisco held its first ranked choice voting elections in 2004. Oakland and San Leandro used ranked choice voting to conduct mayoral elections in 2010, with the Oakland mayoral race receiving extensive coverage in national media. Berkeley also used ranked choice voting in 2010 to elect several citywide positions.

With new Bay Area elections around the corner, IRV is again receiving attention in the press. Visit this page for the latest commentary, analysis and media coverage on ranked choice voting in Bay Area elections.


Featured Report

  • Top Two in Washington State

    July 18, 2013

    Update: This report has now been updated to include additional analysis from the results of the 2012 general election, more details on FairVote's proposed solution: Top Four with ranked choice voting, and analysis based on comparison to California's use of Top Two in 2012.

    The Top Two primary system has drawn increasing attention as a way to reform our elections. Rather than have parties nominate candidates who then face off in a general election, it establishes two rounds of voting: the first a "preliminary" to reduce the field to two candidates and the second a final runoff between the top two finishers. Candidates pick their own party label, and that label has no impact on which candidates advance.

    Louisiana for years was the only state using a form of the system for both state and federal elections. Washington State started using the system in 2008. California implemented it in 2012, and Arizona voters may adopt it in a November 2012 ballot measure. This report looks at the impact of the Top Two primary in Washington State in the two and a half election cycles in which it has been used. The report focuses on state legislative elections, but also summarizes results to date in congressional and statewide elections.




Choice Voting

Choice voting is a proportional voting system where voters maximize the effectiveness of their vote by ranking candidates in multi-seat constituencies, and is FairVote's preferred system for use in the United States.

Top Four Elections


The "Top Two" system has gained attention as a means of addressing political issues through election reform. Unfortunately, Top Two severely limits voter choice, and evidence suggests that it does not accomplish its stated goals well. For states using or considering Top Two, FairVote recommends a ranked choice alternative: Top Four. Simply advance four candidates instead of two, and conduct the general election by ranked choice voting!